Another Spectrum

Personal ramblings and rants of a somewhat twisted mind


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A stressed out Aspie

Most of the time I enjoy being me, but …

Sometimes being neurodivergent is frustrating. Take today for example. Over on another blog, a discussion developed between the blogger and myself over my relationship with Quakerism. Either I failed to understand what he/she was conveying, or he/she failed to understand what I was saying, but clearly we were talking past each other. No matter how carefully I tried to clarify what I was saying, the worse the situation became.

The blogger’s stance was that Quakerism is founded on Christianity, aka no Christianity, no Quakerism. Therefore only Christians can be Quakers. I attempted it illustrate how, although it has Christian roots, a group, with no creed or dogma, that believes that Truth grows and changes in the light of new knowledge, and where individuals are encouraged to find their own truths, will over time, hold views that might not be consistent with the beliefs of the founders. And today there are many non-Christians who are Quakers. Time after time, the blogger would reply as though I didn’t understand that Quakerism has its roots in Christianity and I’m an the most incredibly stupid and obtuse person he/she has encountered and then proceed to tell me again that Quakerism is founded on Christianity.

The topic of the argument is really irrelevant but it does illustrate how frustrated, and at times abusive, a person can get when miscommunication occurs. Being neurodivergent I find communicating with neurotypical people complicated and difficult at the best of times, and as neurotypicals make up around 98% of the population, it results in a lot of frustration. It can be hurtful too. There’s only so many times one can ignore comments such as “How many hours does it take for you to get out of bed and figure out how to put your pants on in the morning!?!?” before one begins to question one’s worth.

That blogger probably communicates almost exclusively with neurotypicals just as I do. I wonder how he/she would cope having to communicate almost exclusively with neurodivergent people in the way I have to communicate almost exclusively with neurotypicals – especially if he/she is frequently told how much of an idiot he/she is.

As an Aspie I have difficulty recognising if language is being used literally or figuratively. At age 67 I now have a complex and rich set of rules I can apply in determining whether something is literal or figurative, and these days it serves me reasonably well. But it’s still just a set of rules, and at times there isn’t a rule that covers a particular set of circumstances. This is especially so where a phrase or sentence has a lot of social or religious baggage associated with it and means different things to different people.

It was my attempt to explain this that brought up the pants in the morning comment. I’d like to say that such a response is unusual, but unfortunately I can’t. Too often it’s an excuse for yet another put down. In reply to the pants comment, I was tempted to say that sometimes I can take a very long time to figure out how to put my pants on. But I suspect that even if I explained that it would be due to a migraine attack affecting cognitive and motor skills, I somehow doubt the significance of his/her comment would sink in. As it turns out, the blogger has dedicated a post specifically to me and my apparent inability to communicate. Such is life.

For all you neurotypical people out there, next time you happen to encounter someone who seems a little different, consider that he/she has to spend all day making accommodations for people like you. Is it too much too ask that you spend a few minutes of your day to try and accommodate them?

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The “extreme male brain”

I have been mulling over writing a post on flaws I see with the theory that people on the autism spectrum have Extreme Male Brains (EMB), and particularly how many on the spectrum fail to fit comfortably into gender specific roles as expected by society. I pointed Clare to the EMB article on DSQ a few days ago and she has produced the post I would have wanted to write if my head wasn’t clouded with a migraine “brain fog”.

Thank you Clare.

Clare Flourish

Is there such a thing? Do trans women have a “female brain”, or people with Asperger’s Syndrome or Autism a “male brain”?

Here’s the Disability Studies Quarterly, giving a good kicking to self-proclaimed experts on Asperger’s, which may also apply to such as Blanchard. Asperger’s is rhetorical, says Jordyn Jack: discourse fills the space that certainty in medicine leaves unoccupied. It’s not making stuff up, exactly; it’s creating a theory from little evidence because you can’t create a better one. Like GID, Asperger’s was messed about by the DSM revision: now it is lumped in with Autism, before, it was separate. The fault comes when Blanchard or Baron-Cohen cling to their theories in the face of contradiction, using them as a framework for their understanding, and excluding other possible understandings.

Another thing we might find useful in this Disability Studies article is the will to find something valuable…

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Disabled? I Am Legend!

I have never considered being an Aspie and having chronic migraine disabling any more than the need to wear corrective lenses. While I would love to loose the migraines, 55 years of wearing spectacles is no more an inconvenience than wearing clothes. On the other hand, my differences due to Asperger’s Syndrome are intrinsically part of who I am.

I am not disabled, but society often disables me. Unstrange Mind explains it so well:


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It’s HERE – the link to a clip from Unspoken – The Documentary

Here in Aotearoa New Zealand, religious diversity and cultural diversity is generally understood and appreciated. The same cannot be said for neuro-diversity. It’s time for people all over the world to listen to what Emma has to say. Please view the teaser at https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/unspoken-documentary/x/521594#/

Emma's Hope Book

I’m guest blogging on Emma’s Hope Book this morning to introduce all of you to the just launched IndieG0Go Campaign for the documentary Emma is co-directing with Julia Ngeow, producer Geneva Peschka, and executive producer Marquise Stillwell of OpenBox. (EEEEEEEEEEE insert happy snoopy dance here.)

Here’s the link to the campaign and the documentary clip.  It’s beautiful.  Just beautiful.

I’m going to wait while all of you click HERE

Okay so now you’ve seen the teaser and maybe you’re thinking what else can I do?  There’s so much, starting with share this with everyone you know.  Share it on all your various social media networks.  And finally, for anyone who can, please donate, even if it’s ten dollars, every dollar will help complete this documentary.

Last week in preparing for the conference  Emma and I are presenting at tomorrow in Toronto (Autism Rocks), Emma typed, “I will say things that…

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I Am Autism

Although I don’t display many of the “common” characteristics of autism, I know precisely what the author of the following piece experiences.

My Autistic Dance

You don’t know me.

You see me sit, rocking.
You hear me talk to myself,
Repeating phrases from the TV.
You watch my hands as they flap
And touch. Seemingly random,
My patterns escape your notice.

You don’t know me.

You see me on the edges,
Quiet, listening but not speaking.
You hear my outbursts:
Violent eruptions of sound and motion.
You note my non-compliance
With black marks in your ledgers.

You don’t know me.

You try to change me,
Remake me in your own image.
You teach me that I am broken.
You punish me for being myself.
You make me fearful and anxious,
Afraid to break your rules.
You drive me deep inside myself.

You don’t know me.

You don’t empathize with me.
You don’t learn about me.
You don’t try to understand me.
You fear me, hurt me, hate me.
You don’t love me: if you did,

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Last meal

I’ve just had my last meal – well until Tuesday evening anyway.

On that day I am due for a colonoscopy, so from this evening I can not consume any food apart from some liquids until after the procedure is completed. I’ve been on a restricted diet for a few days which has limited my diet to rice, products made with white flour, egg, potatoes, fish and chicken. Absolutely no red meat, fruit, vegetables or nuts. Kind of takes the fun out of eating.

Hospitals are stress producing. I seem to end up there once or twice every year. I dislike hospitals due the noise, bright lights, constant activity and the lack a fresh cool breeze. Not the best place for someone hypersensitive to external stimuli. If I don’t have a migraine when I enter hospital, you can guarantee I’ll have have one by the time I leave.

The colonoscopy is causing some emotional stress. Not because of what the results might be, but the thought of what happens during the procedure itself has brought back a very unpleasant memory from way back last century – 1963 to be precise.

As a thirteen year old going on fourteen, I was somewhat of a loner. I had only one school friend, who also did not mix socially with our peers. I didn’t much like contact sports and couldn’t throw a ball as well as the girls, let alone any of the boys. Up until I was eleven, I often spent time talking with the girls at school, but once puberty kicked in, I found it even more difficult socialising with the girls than I did with the boys.

Somewhere about that time, rumours started to spread about my sexuality. I was mostly unaware of this, but it seems there was some controversy amongst my peers as to whether I was a “queer” or a “queen”. I suppose my social awkwardness was the catalyst behind the rumours. At that time Aspergers Syndrome wasn’t recognised and people like me were simply considered antisocial, unsocial, or just odd.

On a somewhat cold autumn day, I was invited to join a game of bullrush. Being invited to join in games was a rare event for me, so even though it is quite physical, I was happy to take part. I had no idea who the boy was, but I guess he was at least two years older than I was.

The game was to take place on a rugby field on the far side of the school grounds, so I followed a group of some twenty or thirty boys to our destination. It never occurred to me that most of the boys were considerably older than I was. The game started, and as was usual. I was never called to make the solo run. What was odd in hindsight that I was never caught during the bullrushes, and eventually I was the only player not “in”.

An unwritten rule of the game was that the more people who were “in” the higher the requirement for being caught. Early in the game, being tagged was all that was necessary, but as the game neared the end, it was necessary to have the runner pinned to the ground.

So, my name was called and I started to make my run, knowing full well that there was no way I could make the 25 yard dash through a group of boys large enough to form two rugby teams. But I was determined not to make it easy for them. Instead of being tackled as I expected, the others were gabbing at my clothes, at first I didn’t realise their intent, but after my jersey was pulled off and they started pulling on my school shorts, I began to realise they might have other plans for me.

I won’t go into full details as to what happened next, suffice to say that I was eventually stripped naked, my lips and cheeks smeared with lipstick. The same lipstick was then used to write sexually derogatory slogans on my chest, and then on my back while I was anally penetrated by several objects.

I don’t know how long the assault lasted, but eventually the school bell rang indicating classes were about to recommence, and I found myself alone and naked. I don’t recall where or how I found my clothes, but I remember creeping into the adjacent reserve of native bush and attempting to remove the lipstick from my face using grass and my underwear. I stayed hidden in the reserve until after school ended and finally when it was almost empty, I found the courage to make my way to the bicycle racks to collect my bike and make my way home.

I never told anyone about the incident. I was too embarrassed and wouldn’t have been able to face the scrutiny that would have occurred if I reported it. I wouldn’t have been able to identify any of my assailants as my facial recognition skills were almost non-existent. It wasn’t until a few years ago that I was finally able to talk to a counsellor about the assault, and even then I left out the most humiliating parts.

It’s an event that I have mostly been able to suppress the memory of, but the forthcoming colonoscopy has brought it flooding back. Quite irrational I know. A few medical staff in a hospital facility is so very different from a pack of savage youths at the back of a school field. But as the same same piece of anatomy is involved in both, the two are becoming interwoven in my mind as the day of the examination approaches.


For those who don’t know the game of bullrush:

How to play:

One person is “in” and stands in the middle of the field and calls out a name.
The person named has to try to run to the other side of the field without getting tackled.
If they get tackled they are in and another person’s name is called.
If they get to the other side they yell “Bullrush”, and everyone runs.
The game continues until everyone is in.
The last person “in” is the winner.


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The Aftermath

This post is part three of a series on the development of my religious beliefs from childhood in the 1950s and 1960s to the present day.The previous posts are Part 1: Worship and other secrets, and Part 2: The day God spoke to me. This post describes what happened in the days following the episode described in part 2.

I was so moved at what I had experienced, that I was bursting to tell someone – anyone. So I did. Perhaps I was somewhat naive, but I certainly did not expect the derision I received from my peers. Being surrounded by twenty or so school kids pointing and taunting and falling about laughing is not the most pleasant experience. Finally one class mate quietly took me to one side and she explained that there are some things that are better kept to oneself, and this was one of them. I think Janet was the only child that understood that I didn’t process social interactions in the way other kids did. It was from her that I learnt that it’s often necessary to select very carefully which battles are worth fighting and which battles are better to walk away from. For that I am very grateful. She had wisdom well beyond her seven years.

I decided my mother would be be more understanding. When I told her that God had spoken to me, her response of “That’s nice dear”, while turning back to continue with preparing dinner, I understood that it was a conversation she didn’t want to participate in – much like when one of my siblings tried to engage her in conversations with his imaginary friend. At that time my mother was the only person I was moderately successful at reading social cues from voice tone, body language and by what was not said.

Surely my Sunday school teacher would understand, so I resolved to tell her about on the next Sunday. However, a classmate got in first and blurted out that I claimed that God had spoken to me. The Sunday school teacher looked at me very sternly. What had I done wrong this time?
Teacher: Have you been telling lies about God speaking to you?
I most certainly was not telling lies.
Me: No
Teacher [peering over the top of her glasses and looking even more stern]: Barry, have you been telling people that God spoke to you?
I found that question more difficult to answer. My first inclination was to answer “No” again. I had told the story five days ago, but not since. Her use of “Have you been telling” meant that I was continuing to tell the story, which was not the case, so a negative response would be appropriate. Experience had taught me people don’t always mean exactly what they say. Perhaps she really meant “Did you tell“, in which case “Yes” would have been appropriate. I pondered my options for a moment, then decided the best option was not to answer the question, but to make a simple statement of fact that should avoid confusion.
Me [with hesitation]: I haven’t told anyone since Tuesday.

Apparently I goofed… again. I realise now that my delay in answering and the words I chose was tantamount to an admission that I had lied the previous Tuesday. I then received a lecture as to why lying was a sin, and lying about God was an even greater sin.  Finally came the message that it was necessary for me to confess my sin if God was to forgive me. This I refused to do.

Let’s just say it went downhill from there. I never went back to Sunday school again.

What did I learn from the experience?

  • Personal experiences shouldn’t be shared with others
  • I’m going to be misunderstood irrespective of how carefully I choose my words
  • Delay in responding to a question equals lying in the eyes of adults
  • Sunday school teachers don’t know much, and what they do know is wrong
  • Be very, very careful who you identify as friends
  • The God I know and the God in the Bible are not one and the same
  • Mothers don’t always know when you are telling the truth

The Sunday school teachers had made it very clear that anything and everything about God could be discovered in the Bible, and in fact it was the only source of knowledge about God. Curious, I started a secretive reading of the Bible stating from Genesis. More about this in the part  of this series.